IN 1972, a talk given by an Irish aid worker at his school in Kerry captured Vincent O'Connor's imagination and filled him with a desire to work in the developing world.The Dingle man didn't know it at the time, but it would be almost 40 years before he would fulfil his ambition with GOAL. Now that O'Connor's time with the aid organisation has come to an end, he is in a very reflective mood about the direction his life took along the way. Family issues intervened early in his life. Vincent was only 12 when his father, Mikey, died from cancer. The tragedy meant he had to help out in the family's bakery. Vincent spent many early mornings throughout his teens working with his uncle Mossie, delivering bread and doing whatever else he could to help out. Work with his uncle often meant taking time off school: "There was a different attitude to education in those days. Far from getting into trouble for missing school, I got credit as "a great young lad" from everybody for doing it. I remember enjoying the work, for the most part". The 57 year- old has never forgotten the lessons of his formative years, about the importance of family, community and hard work. He and his wife Noreen have raised two children, Michael and Maura. Before joining GOAL, he worked for over 30 years as a chartered accountant and financial manager. With his two children making their own way in the world, Vincent decided it was time to follow his lifelong dream. Browsing the GOAL website one night, he applied for a job as the charity's financial controller in Sudan. His qualifications, more than 30 years in the private sector, and an obvious enthusiasm landed him the position. He arrived in Sudan in the autumn of 2010, and has been there ever since. Vincent took up his post in Sudan during a particularly tempestuous time; when a large part of the country ( now South Sudan) was close to gaining independence. Sudan has suffered from extended civil war and widespread poverty, and all of the devastating problems that come with those. Vincent managed the financial aspects of several GOAL programmes, a very responsible and demanding job involving a staff of over 750 people and an annual budget in the region of € 9 million. The GOAL programmes helped to deliver water, sanitation, basic hygiene training, health services, emergency aid and education to almost 600,000 of the most impoverished people in Sudan. GOAL's interventions can be the difference between life and death for vulnerable Sudanese populations. Vincent's wife has stayed at home, and he admits to feeling slightly isolated when he first arrived in Sudan, before making full use of the internet and video- calling to keep in regular contact with his family. He has also missed TG4 and following the fortunes of the Kerry football team. Despite the array of challenges, big and small, that Vincent has faced, he could not be more passionate about his overall experience: "The scope and effectiveness of the programmes make it all worthwhile. For example, GOAL provides health clinics and vaccination programmes for diseases that we have no need to worry about in Ireland." A sense of empathy for the people of Sudan, and the developing world in general has driven him this far: "The services we provide are to people who are surviving in the harshest of conditions, without any sense of bitterness at their lot." "On the way to work every morning in Khartoum, which is far from the most impoverished part of Sudan, I would frequently see people rummaging for morsels of food in garbage that had been left at collection points. It is shocking to see anybody reduced to that level." Comparisons with home are inevitable: "You would see a wide range of people rummaging; from the disabled to the mentally ill. At times, I frequently think of my brother, Maurice, in care in Killarden House, Tralee. He is being well looked after, to modern standards, by professional nurses and carers. It's just a reflection of mine, but why not the same for the vulnerable people of Sudan too? Are they not entitled to the same level of attention as we are?" Vincent completed his assignment with GOAL in May, but he isn't finished with Sudan just yet. Recently, he has taken up a position with a Saudi- Arabian company called Al- Rajii, who is working in partnership with another firm on a project to use water pumped from the Nile to irrigate what has become desert land and bring it back in to production. With almost two years under his belt in Sudan, however, he reflects on his highlight, "I got to show my daughter, Maura the work that GOAL does for six weeks last summer. I enjoyed it very much, introducing her to the programmes on the ground and the social experiences; when some of our Sudanese neighbours asked us out to dinner, and we heard some of the local bands. I really enjoyed the music, which surprised me". "Maura got heavily involved in the work of GOAL. It was great to see that she was able to endure the heat of summer here, and continue with the job regardless. I was so proud of her," he concludes. A good work ethic in trying circumstances, and family connections to the fore: It seems Mr O'Connor has passed on his genes.